A child fine, that’s what academics call it. The Central Planning Bureau (CPB) prefers to use a more neutral term to describe what happens to women’s income as soon as they have their first child: it falls.
And big too. Compared to women who do not have any child(ren), the income of mothers drops by 46 percent until seven years after the birth of their first child. The birth of their child has hardly any effect on the income of men. There is hardly any income difference between men with and without children. That percentage is around zero.
The main cause of the fall in income among women is that they work far fewer hours when they have children. Men, on the other hand, hardly ever work less once they become a father. At the request of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the CPB has now investigated how this large fall in income can be further explained. Yes, women are therefore going to work less – but what is the basis for that?
The planning office will publish the results on Thursday morning. According to Egbert Jongen, labor program manager at the CPB, it is important that women and men ‘realize’ that a large income difference arises as soon as they become parents. Especially because nowadays “some of the relationships end in divorce.” After a divorce, many women turn out to be unable to stand on their own feet financially. Almost one third of women in the Netherlands are currently not economically independent. That share is lower among men: less than 20 percent of them can’t do their own thing.
Child at the nursery? More income
Contrary to what the word child fine might suggest, the fall in income among mothers is the result of choices that parents have made themselves. Such as who will work less, mother or father, and who will take on most of the care tasks at home. The question is therefore mainly within which social context those choices are made, and what role government policy plays in this. That is what the CPB tries to outline in the new study. The planning office looked at both the availability of childcare and prevailing social views.
First the daycare. In 2005 a new government policy for childcare was introduced, for example the childcare allowance was increased. As a result, the number of childcare places increased in various municipalities. In municipalities where this indeed happened, the CPB saw the loss of income of mothers decrease. In cities or villages where there were hardly any new places, the income decline of mothers also remained the same.
In other words, that seems to suggest that if parents can take their child to daycare, mothers work more and lose less income. The CPB calculated that mothers lost up to 6.5 percent less income due to the improved access to childcare. Boy: “So that has a positive effect on the income of mothers, but it is limited. It leaves a large part of the income decline unexplained.”
Also read: Woman’s income drops sharply after first child
Opinions about who is responsible for the care of children probably play a more important role, says the CPB. To substantiate this, the planning office looked at different groups of parents.
For example, to two mothers who have a child together. In these couples, both women lose their income as soon as they have a child, but a lot less than women who raise a child with a man. Among religious mothers, the ‘child fine’ is generally higher again. In religious congregations – places where residents regularly go to church or mosque – mothers give up considerably more income than in non-religious congregations.
The CPB also looked at two different groups with a migration background. Among women with a Surinamese or Antillean background, the income did not decrease that much. Even if they have children, they continue to work relatively many hours. Women with a Turkish or Moroccan background, on the other hand, lose more income with the arrival of children. They are more likely to stop working altogether.
The CPB checked within and between all these groups whether the education level of mothers still played a role. But whether they are highly or low-skilled: they all lose income.
Incidentally, this is not an exclusively Dutch phenomenon. In other countries too, women who become mothers lose income. Scandinavian mothers generally less than Dutch mothers: in Denmark and Sweden the income fell by 22 and 30 percent respectively. In Austria and Germany, however, the fall in income is higher again: 50 and 60 percent respectively. Presumably because mothers there are more likely to (temporarily) stop working.
For example, the Dutch part-time culture has a favorable effect – mothers continue to work – and a negative effect – it is the main reason why mothers lose income.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of June 24, 2021